GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- During the course of a year, a barrage of new product e-mails hits the inbox in search of space on the Grand Forks Herald's Outdoors pages.
These news releases trumpet everything from barbecue grills to books. Some of the stuff looks great. The rest? Well . . . let's just say it quickly finds its way into the dreaded recycle bin.
Product features aren't a regular part of the Herald's Outdoors coverage, but this year, we squirreled away some of the best e-mails as candidates for our annual Christmas "wish-list" of outdoors gear, gizmos and goodies.
Some of the gear listed below comes from those e-mails, but not all of it.
We've tried some of the items and like them -- a lot. Other gear falls into the category of Stuff We'd Like to Try That Would Look Great Under the Christmas Tree (hint, hint).
With that in mind, here's the 2009 version of the Herald's Annual Holiday Outdoor Gift Guide.
Or better yet, happy giving:
--Fly-Tying Tool Kit: Sometimes, the preparation can be just as much fun as the experience when it comes to fishing. This kit from Cabela's includes all of the tools the fishing lover on your list will need to get started tying flies; $29.99; cabelas.com.
--Northland Macho Minnow: Bemidji's Northland Tackle has delivered the fish-catching goods for years with staples such as the Fireball Jig and Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon. New this year, Northland has kicked it up a notch with the Macho Minnow. The new jigging spoon comes in six sizes, ranging from 1/12 to 3/4 ounce, and is available in several holographic and high-visibility glow colors. Price $4.39 to $5.79; www.northlandtackle.com.
--Charge 'N Glow: Rapala's Charge 'N Glow looks like a sunglasses case and features eight LED bulbs powered by three AAA batteries. Charge up a glow lure by placing it in the spring-loaded case, close it up, hit the power button and let the lights do the rest. About $18; www.rapala.com.
--Chubby Darter: Ask just about any ice angler to name their favorite lures, and chances are the Salmo Chubby Darter will be on the list. Few lures trigger harder strikes than this vertical jigging bait that has become a staple on bodies of water such as Devils Lake and Lake of the Woods. At a price of $7 to $10, they're not cheap, but since hitting the market six years ago, the Chubby Darter has definitely lived up to the hype. On the Web: www.salmo.com.
--Glide-Lite sled: From the makers of Strikemaster augers, this pull-behind sled is made for ice fishing, with space for everything from a 5-gallon bucket and fishing gear to depthfinders and underwater cameras. About $80; www.strikemaster.com.
--Nikon rangefinder: Hunters: Ever wish you knew for certain just how far that perfect shot might be? A rangefinder has the answer. Similar to a binocular, the devices measure various ranges up to 500 yards or more. Nikon's ProStaff 550 costs $200. It's waterproof, fogproof and like all Nikon optics, offers a clear picture of your target, whether it's a tree, animal or fencepost; www.nikon.com.
--Hunter Safety System Pop-Up Signs: Hunter Safety System, the company that specializes in tree-stand safety harnesses, has taken a new twist on safety with these blaze orange-colored signs that read "Hunter in Area" to alert unexpected visitors from infringing on public land or other areas where you're hunting. It's as simple as popping open the sign and hanging it from a twig or branch. Two signs per package, $9.99; www.huntersafetysystem.com.
--Carhartt upland pants: Anything Carhartt makes is sturdy. Their hunting pants, made of 12-ounce cotton duck, are no exception. They'll last for a decade or more. They're great for upland hunting whether you chase pheasants or ruffed grouse. The front of the pants is shielded by tough Cordura nylon. The pants come in any color you want as long it's brown. About $60; www.cabelas.com.
--Big Game Hunting Gift Pack: A good choice for both aspiring and accomplished hunters, this camo backpack set from Cabela's is filled with tools for checking wind, eliminating scent, field-dressing big game and more. About $69.99; www.cabelas.com.
--Jerky King: There's venison in the freezer; maybe even a goose or two. Turn some of it into jerky with this kit from the maker of Hi Mountain seasonings. The Jerky King comes with a hardwood cutting board, sharp knife, 13 1/2-inch chrome-plated jerky screen and two Hi Mountain Jerky Cure & Seasonings kits. Available at retail outlets such as Cabela's, Scheels, Gander Mountain and Sportsman's Warehouse. Suggested retail price $42.18; www.himtnjerky.com or (800) 829-2285.
--"Our Neck of the Woods: Exploring Minnesota's Wild Places": Edited by Daniel J. Phippon, "Our Neck of the Woods" is a collection of essays from the pages of the Minnesota Volunteer magazine, published by the Department of Natural Resources since 1940. And there are plenty of ties to "our" neck of the woods, including Blane Klemek's story of Eldor Omdahl, the Warren, Minn., conservationist who donated the land for the Wetlands, Pines and Prairie Audubon Sanctuary; and Jim dale Huot-Vickery's "Going with the Flow," about paddling the Red River from its source in Wahpeton-Breckenridge to Lake Winnipeg on the 2000 Red River Millennium Canoe Tour. From the Red River to Lake Superior and all points in-between, this book is filled with short, compelling essays about the Minnesota experience. Price $19.95, available through such outlets as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.
--"Freshwater Game Fish of North America" by Peter Thompson: As beautiful as it is informative, this richly illustrated coffee table book would be a welcome addition to the living room or cabin of anyone who appreciates fish. And if they swim in North America, they're here in these 231 pages -- from redhorse to rainbows and whitefish to walleyes. Price $45; available through Amazon.com and other booksellers.
--"Born a Hunter: Thirty Hunting Adventures from the Arctic to Africa" by Dwight Van Brunt: As the title suggests, this collection of stories takes outdoor writer Dwight Van Brunt on hunting adventures for everything from brown bear and Dall's sheep to elephants and Cape buffalo. Available through booksellers such as Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon.com; $39.95.
--"A Hunter's Fireside Book: Tales of Dogs, Ducks, Birds & Guns" by Gene Hill: Outdoor columnist Gene Hill is known for his work with Field & Stream, Guns & Ammo and Sports Afield. In this collection of stories, he serves up "uplifting and sometimes sorrowful accounts perfect for reading next to a warm fire, a trustworthy dog and a bottle of whisky," publisher Skyhorse Publishing says in a news release. Available through booksellers such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com; $24.95.
--Mobile guide books: The National Audubon Society's field guide books have gone mobile with applications for users of Apple's iPhone and iPodTouch. Now available through Apple's iTunes store are Audubon's North American guides to Birds, Wildflowers, Trees and Mammals. Available for $19.99 for Birds and $9.99 for Wildflowers, Trees and Mammals. Info: AudubonGuides.com.
--Therm-a-Rest Compack Chair: You've probably had a Therm-a-Rest mattress for years. Now, any 20-inch camping mattress can perform double-duty when slipped into this chair sleeve. The Compack Chair, which weighs a mere 6 ounces, provides back support and relaxation around camp or anywhere else you want to bring it. About $39.95; available locally at Scheels or on the Web at www.cascadedesigns.com.
--EZ Grill: This portable -- and recyclable -- grill features a foil pan, stand, grill grate and instant charcoal and would make a great accessory for camping, tailgating or any other on-the-go grilling application. Available in 1.81-pound regular size and 3.31-pound party size for $4.99 and $9.99 at Wal-Mart and Safeway outlets.
--MSR E-Bivy: From Cascade Designs, the same company that markets the Therm-a-Rest mattress, this compact "bivy" bag weighs in at a mere 7 ounces and easily fits into a backpack for day trips or emergency protection. About $79.95; www.cascadedesigns.com.
--Zodi portable shower: This is for the camper or hunter who has everything. Think of it as a shower in a box. It works by placing the pump in the carrying case containing the water, firing up a connected 16-ounce propane bottle and you've got 100-degree water flowing through the 8-foot hose. Great for deer camps or wherever you feel the need to get clean. The one-burner model costs about $150; www.cabelas.com.
--Adventure Medical Kits: Spend enough time outdoors, and eventually you're probably going to need a First Aid kit. The Adventure Medical Kit is available in three sizes and includes such necessities as antiseptic wipes, dressings and meds for alleviating pain, nausea and allergic reactions. Prices from $6 to $22; www.adventuremedicalkits.com.
--Kirsch's Outdoor Products Trax GPS chips: Tracking down the location of public lands for a hunting trip or other outdoor excursion can be a challenge, but this collection of GPS chips from Fargo-based Kirsch's Outdoor Products compiles the maps into a tiny package that's not much bigger than your thumbnail. Available for North Dakota (NDTrax), Minnesota (MNTrax), Montana (MTTrax) and Wyoming (WYTrax), it's all here -- from state and federal lands to tax-forfeited tracts and even contour maps of several lakes. The chips cost $79.95 each and are available for Lowrance and Garmin GPS units; www.koutdoorproducts.com.
--Rapala fillet knife: Rapala's handy little 4-inch "Fish 'n Fillet" knife cuts fish skin and meat like a whip slicing through air. You get a flexible, full-tang steel blade and the classic birch-varnished handle, leather sheath and sharpener. It's a great stocking stuffer and we've seen them for less than $10; www.rapala.com.
--Coghlan's Magnesium Fire Starter: This fire-starting tool from a company that specializes in outdoor accessories comes with a solid block of magnesium that generates a 5,400-degree flame source and features a built-in striker bar. Good for starting more than 100 fires. Suggested retail price $5.96; www.coghlans.com.
MADE FOR WINTER
--Muck footwear: We've featured Muck boots and shoes before, and we'll do it again because quality is worth repeating. Available in several models ranging from moccasin-style to the knee-high Arctic Sports, waterproof Muck footwear is as durable as it is practical. From $85 to $190; www.muckboots.com.
--Steger mukluks: Remember Will Steger, the dogsledder from Ely, Minn., who conquered both the North and South poles? The same style of moose-hide mukluks he wore in the polar snow and ice are made in Ely. The mukluks come in a variety of styles. There's a mukluk -- moccasin -- for every season. For winter, you can't beat their comfort, warmth and 1-pound weight. They come with two layers of wool felt liners and insoles. The moccasins aren't cheap, but they've proven they're worth every cent. About $200; www.mukluk.com.
--Snosuit Gauntlet Gloves: Wisconsin-based Frabill has been making big waves in the winter fishing industry the past few years with portable shelters and other gear. The commitment to warmth takes a new twist with Gauntlet Gloves, which combine waterproof, windproof and breathable technology into mitten- and glove-sized packages. About $49.99; www.snosuit.com.
--Kahtoola MICROspikes: Kind of like tire chains for your feet, slip-on MICROspikes remove the hazard from walking on ice with 3/8-inch spikes. Best of all, they easily attach without any special buckles or straps. Available in five sizes for feet from youth 1 to adult 14. About $59 through REI or Midwest Mountaineering or online at www.kahtoola.com.
--Portable Buddy Heaters: As quiet as they are safe, these portable heaters from the Mr. Heater company have become a standard in portable ice fishing shelters and enclosed deer stands. Available in three sizes: The 3,800-BTU Little Buddy, the 9,000-BTU Portable Buddy and the 18,000-BTU Big Buddy. Available at numerous outdoor, hardware, home center and farm-related retailers; $65 for the Little Buddy, $99.99 for the Portable Buddy and $129 for the Big Buddy. On the Web: www.mrheater.com.